Tuesday, 20th February 2018
Moyes winning the 100 days war
Filed: Tuesday, 13th February 2018
Author: Paul Walker

There’s revolution in the air and David Sullivan and his board are finding that it is coming at them from more than one direction.

There’s the noisy revolution, the one planned for March 10 by the rank and file boys, the Real West Ham Fans Action Group, who won’t be sidetracked by any amount of PR from Sullivan via his TalkSport puppet Jim White or the tame interview on the in-house West Ham TV, the one that didn’t ask any tough questions.

But it’s the other revolution, the quiet one that David Moyes has waged in his short time at the club, that may well have taken Sullivan by surprise.

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It was 100 days in charge for the Scot this week, and it is this spell and the changes that have occurred in such a short space of time on the playing side that interests me most, rather than the excellent efforts of Andy Swallow and the boys (I think they can look after themselves nicely now).

They are getting the publicity, and as long as there is no trouble en route from Stratford Park to the LS, they’ll get their message across just fine.

Sullivan and the club have been rattled by all this, more than a few minds have been concentrating on appeasing the fans (Saturday’s programme content in particular) and answering some of their complaints. Sullivan has twice now appealed for unity, which I find faintly annoying.

There is a clear difference between the manager and the team, and the owners. I have never known our fans not to be united in support of the team, and the players generally. You only had to listen to the support on Saturday for the excellent win over Watford.

Frankly, if I never heard another word from Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady, that would be just fine, so stop trying to suggest that the fan base lacks unity when it comes to supporting our team.

It is what we are seeing from Moyes at the moment that certainly fills me with growing enthusiasm. Anyone who thinks he will not be manager next season has not been paying attention, which makes his interview with the frequently lubricated Alan Brazil on TalkSport a little irritating.

Brazil was on about Moyes leaving at the end of the season. Clearly he had not seen that suggestion shot down last week by the club and manager. Frankly even if we are relegated(three more wins please) I believe Moyes will ,and should, be given a long term contract.

So much has changed, or will be changed, already. And for me it was the words from both manager and chairman that Sully will be “standing aside” from transfer dealings in the future that really caught the attention. Blimey, the world and his wife have been telling control-freak Sullivan that for years but Moyes has sorted it in three months.

Of course everyone is saying nice things about each other, to save face. But it is clear that a lot of discussions have been going on behind the scenes, and now everyone is talking about changes in the football structure at the club for next season. So Moyes won’t be here? Nonsense.

I sense that there has been a point recently, probably as the transfer window descended into chaos, that Moyes made it clear that if he stayed on, he would not tolerate any interference in transfers and selection of players from the board. Not negotiable. Just like it was when Moyes had Bill Kenwright as his chairman at Everton.

And the shock is that Sullivan has agreed. No doubt he has seen how Moyes has hauled a dysfunctional, disinterested squad up from the relegation zone to mid-table, the job is not done yet but Moyes’ stamp is now on everything that Sullivan can see.

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And the predicted Armageddon of relegation is drifting away, not quite gone but certainly allowing the board to breath easier. And maybe they can see that the sort of policies that saw Birmingham relegated twice from the Premier League under their tenure, and more than a few relegation battles at West Ham in their time, need to be addressed.

Handed over the to football professionals rather than part time ‘director of football.’ A proper, modern analysis system, massive video information, increased scouting, a new head of recruitment.

Honestly, why would any sane owner put himself into the firing line every transfer window when he can delegate to someone he trusts? That has always defeated me, Sully surely doesn’t need the aggro, pressure and abuse on a twice yearly basis.

Moyes has more than steadied the ship. It was never going to be pretty, he was never going to be flamboyant and all over the back pages. He doesn’t do anything else but functional, organised, methodical and calm problem saving.

We have gone unbeaten in five games at the LS for the first time. We have lost only one of nine matches there since he took over in November, conceding just seven. Gone are the days when we have to score three to get anything from a game, like it was under Slav’s Kamikaze cavaliers.

Yes, I loved Slav and his style, but frequently the pack of cards on the pitch collapsed into disarray at the first sign of adversity.

We were being told we were the worst-coached side in the top flight, now Moyes has produced a team and plan that gives a passable impression of a Premier League team. We have lost just five of the 16 league games under Moyes’ control, the players and fan can see a plan, and that was sadly lacking under Slav.

Sullivan can see a good thing when it smacks him in the face. There’s too much cash at stake now for gambles.

So Sullivan is talking of "only the manager can sign players". Sully will "delegate the whole thing, players will be scouted five or six times". And the key point for me: "WE WON’T SIGN A PLAYER THE MANAGER HAS NEVER SEEN PLAY".

Just stop and take that in for a second. It presumably means we have been signing players the managers have not seen play. Heaven forbid. You can tell Moyes put his foot down during January when he remarked that ‘ we would not be doing things a certain way.’

There was friction, the ‘dithering Dave’ label was floated again, scandalous that really. That emerged at Manchester United when Moyes took time to make decisions as soon as he arrived and was hounded for it.

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At Everton there was occasionally disquiet on the same lines… but the answer to that was (in no particular order Tim Cahill, Leighton Baines, Steven Pienaar, Phil Jagielka, Tim Howard, Phil Neville, Seamus Coleman, Kevin Kilbane, Stephen Naysmith, Andrew Johnson, Joseph Yobo, Kevin Mirallas… I could go on.

We would have accepted the majority of those signings, cheap but all a success. Moyes may dither, but he won‘t waste the club’s money. And Sullivan knows a lot about that.

Moyes has re-aligned his ambitions. He admits to going to Old Trafford to give himself an easier chance to win trophies. Now he can see a project with us, and he insists he is happy to try to recreate the Everton policy, long term. What we need is careful planning, a structure and no more vanity signings. (Yes, I mean Joe Hart.)

Someone said to me last weekend that they would not be over-bothered if Moyes did go, but they really liked his backroom set-up. I think you don’t get one without the other.

But there is so much more than has been happening quietly around this squad. About the first thing Moyes did was to stop the leaks or team news and injuries, something that played into opponents’ hands and flooded every week leading up to a match.

Then there’s the discipline. The axing of Michail Antonio for poor timekeeping could have backfired, but fortune favoured the brave and we beat West Brom and Antonio was in the office the following morning to apologise. Soon after he was saying how he wanted to play on the left, and on Saturday we saw him in that wing-back role creating the first goal. He needs to be fitter and stronger, but he’s a beast to play against when he really fancies it.

We also have a plan. Three centre backs, Aaron Cresswell playing well as the left side of that trio, and Arthur Masuaku and now Antonio on the left. I don’t believe Patrice Evra will be anything else but cover.

Adrian has been reinstated in goal, James Collins and Mark Noble are also back in favour. Marko Arnautovic is hungry again and moved to play through the middle to great effect. Moyes has found an effective role for Chicharito while Angelo Ogbonna and Cheikhou Kouyate are in their best form of the season.

Moyes has been moved to say this week that "maybe the players were looking for a change of attitude". Careful not to criticise the previous regime but he said what everyone is thinking. Players need direction, a plan they can see working and their roles defined. They are getting that now. And they are being worked hard on the training ground.

There have been some blips. Newcastle was a game we should have won, Brighton was a shambles again, and the cup ties seemed to be an inconvenience for Moyes, having been charged initially to just save our skins in the Premier League.

Moyes has also diligently shifted through the youth players, the ones everyone was crying out to be given a chance, and done just that. Declan Rice and Josh Cullen are the best of the bunch, and they are part of the squad.

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I am not trying to paint too rosy a picture here, we have some tough games coming up that could seriously expose us again. But I am just trying to highlight the string of positive decisions that Moyes and his coaches have made, problems that have been around for a while, but ones that the Scot has tried to solve, one by one. There was an awful lot to do.

So while Moyes and the team have been living and playing in their own bubble, the chairman has been trying to placate the angry brigade. He’s got enough on his hands with that, so why on earth would he want to touch a transfer again or interfere in the playing side?

Maybe, just maybe, he has started to learn how to delegate. And Moyes, needing to firmly re-establish himself in the top flight, has grasped the opportunity with open arms.

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